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October 14 2000: Radio Is The Lifeline

(This column originally appeared at www.yankeesxtreme.com, Yankees Xtreme. Reproduced here by permission of Ultrastar.)
I’ve always loved the radio, ever since I was a kid. My mother always kept the radio on in the car when we went places. Back then, 77 WABC was a music station, and we’d sing along to popular tunes while waiting in line to fill up the car during the gas crisis, or while in traffic at the George Washington Bridge.
I would spend hours in front of our big stereo tuner in the living room, flipping the dial, pulling in signals from what seemed like distant planets to me. Classical music, news, announcers speaking in other languages–sounds and voices seemed to bring faraway places right into the living room in a way that the glass box of television did not.

And, of course, I listened to my share of Yankees games.

These days, I live too far away to pick up the radio broadcast, so my computer has become my radio. I tune in to the game through the link on Xtreme.

The other day I wasn’t sure what time a postseason game was due to start, and I tuned in a little early. And I discovered I could hear the sounds of the Stadium in the background. And what did I do? I just sat here at my desk and listened.

It gave me the same feeling I used to get when sneaking a listen to the game broadcast in my bedroom as a kid. Bedtime was nine o’clock when I was growing up, which as you know is long before most games end. I was the type of kid who would read comic books or science fiction novels under the covers with a flashlight. But there were some nights I’d sneak my Dad’s little red transistor radio — the very same one we’d bring with us to the Stadium — into bed with me.

I’d use the little white earphone that came with it so I wouldn’t be found out. I could lie there with my eyes shut and look asleep to the casual parental observer, while in the ear against the pillow Phil Rizzuto’s “Ho-leee Cow!” would be ringing.

It was a connection from my dark bedroom (Thurman Munson poster on the closet door), through that little white wire, to a big wide world out there, where battles were being fought, games won and lost, and history made every night. It was some kind of magic being connected to that world through a tiny red box hidden under my pillow.

I looked out the window of my attic office, onto the quaint brick sidewalks of Cambridge, Mass., at the maple tree whose leaves have already turned and fallen here in New England. Hundreds of miles from the Bronx and the team I love. But through another box, this one a Macintosh, I could almost make out this week’s edition of MSG Yankees Magazine being played on the Diamondvision screen. I could hear people chatting and preparing for that night’s game in the broadcast booth.

If only I could get the games in my car, now. My brother experienced the final out of David Wells’ perfect game while driving to the mall. Hunched toward the radio, overcome with excitement and emotion, he had to pull over in the ninth inning and wait for the game to be over before he could continue on.

That muffled microphone at the Stadium is now my lifeline. That faint popping sound is the distant crack of the bats during BP. I know it’s the visiting team taking their cracks, but I still imagine Tino, Bernie, Jeet and Paulie in their dark blue practice jerseys, taking their swings in the cage, as night falls in the Bronx.

Eddie Layton began to play his rendition of “New York, New York.” I could practically smell the hot dogs as I heard the vendors calling out “peanuts” and “programs.” The scoreboard in center at this time would be reading “Monument Park Is Now Closed.” I pictured ushers showing people to their seats and wiping them clean with big furry mitts on their hands.

An announcer’s voice then came on to tell stations carrying the game feed that the broadcast would begin in five minutes. But for me, it had already begun.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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